Alex Massie

The Land That Time Forgot

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That would be Scotland, of course. Dear old Scotia, meek and mild and quiet as a well-nursed child. There was another YouGov poll released at the weekend and this Scotland on Sunday survey had its own startling findings. To wit:

Labour - 40%

SNP - 20%

Lib Dems - 19%

Tories - 16%

Others - 5%

You read that correctly. After 13 years and the worst fiscal apocalypse in 70 years 40% of my compatriots will still, like so many zombies, endorse the Labour party just as their faither did before them and, god knows, perhaps his faither before him too.

True, this poll may slightly under-estimate currrent levels of Lib Dem support since half of it was conducted before last week's debate. Then again, the electoral map also distorts Scottish politics: the red bits, just so you know, are where most people live.

Indeed, as SNP Tactical Voting points out,  it's quite possible that not a single seat will actually change hands in scotland this year. Score one for democracy and the universal franchise! Or, you know, not.

Still, think on that: we have a government that is utterly discredited and that has run out of everyone's money and yet it makes no difference whatsoever. If the SoS poll were matched by the election result Labour would win 41 seats, the Lib Dems 11, the SNP 6 and the Tories just David Mundell's seat in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale.

Granted, devolution queers the pitch soemwhat and Scottish voters were able to give Labour a kicking in 2007 without having to wait until this year. True too that the more Gordon is loathed in England the more he receives some kind of sympathy vote* in Scotland and, finally, it's also the case that Cameronism, restrained and reasonably mature about Holyrood as it is, has not taken off in Scotland.

Nevertheless, Labour's "stickability" in Scotland verges on the awesome. Depressing but extraordinary and it seems pretty good bet that Labour will, once more, be the largest party after the 2011 Holyrood elections without having done anything to deserve such a return to power. Certainly the notion of Iain Gray becoming First Minister hardly gladdens the heart.

And yet that seems what's most likely to happen. For forty years now folk have been wondering when Scotland would stop its policy of self-harm. Not yet it seems as there's life in these mangy old dogs yet and the day that the country cures itself of its Labour addiction and becomes a relatively more-normal place seems a long way off yet.

I'd say it was inexplicable except that of course it ain't: Labour give - or have persuaded the public that they give - people what they want while running campaigns designed to terrify anyone foolish enough to contemplate voting for anyone else. Sadly the public fall for this trick every time. Perhaps they like falling for it. Who knows? (Labour and the SNP each seem to believe that casting a ballot for another party amounts to an act of treason, so Labour aren't the only guilty ones).

Nevertheless, Diderot's old saw, once updated by Tom Nairn, needs further adaptation: Scotland cannot be free until the last Labour MP is hanged with the last copy of the Daily Record. Or something like that. Not to exagerrate or anything.

*For more, see this, from November: Brown is a Rescue Donkey.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articlePoliticslabour partyscotlandsnp